Shattered Façade

Prompt: #QCS Illusions and #021 Touching the Illusion
Word Count: 752
Characters: Inara, mentions of Mal and the crew
Notes: I wrote this for a QCS practice test in school. We had a foldout page covered in various pictures, phrases and information that were based around a central theme, and were required to write 600 words focused on it. It's also written for 30angsts so if you don't like dark, angsty fics, this isn't for you.

Inara Serra studied herself in the expensive gold-plated mirror by her bed. All she could see was a reflection – an image of her physical self. The reflection didn't show who she really was. She was not the person she had once been, but what she saw protested that she was exactly that. It was all a lie.

Inara had been training and practicing as a Companion on Sihnon since she was 12 years old. A Companion's life had been simple. She had been required to remain in control of every feeling that came her way, guard her heart and hide away behind a mask of lies. She was to give men her company and let them be convinced that she too was enjoying their time together, no matter how she felt.

Sighing, Inara thought about what it meant to be a Companion of her status; or a Companion at all, for that matter. It shaped her and made her who she was. She didn't know who she'd be without it. Would she look the same? Would she still dress in the expensive garments and decorate her room with lengths of beautiful, to-die-for silks? Would she still be Inara? Or would she be someone else?

She truly didn't want to know. Deep down, she knew that knowing would somehow change her entire existence. She couldn't let that happen. She needed to stay in control.

Control was the first and the last lesson that Inara had been taught at the Training House. She had been taught how to smile, how to laugh at jokes that she didn't find particularly funny, and how to pleasure a man and keep him comfortable. She was a mere slave to her job, really. Even Malcolm Reynolds, the somewhat ignorant Captain of Serenity, had told her that and he was one of the most intolerable and thick-headed men Inara had ever met.

It confused her. He seemed to know her better than she even knew herself. He saw through her carefully applied masks and saw not just her outward appearance but into her soul. No one had ever been able to break through her barriers like he did.

Inara stared back into the mirror, wearily. She could feel herself slipping and pulling away from what she had once been. She was changing inside, and it scared her more than she cared to admit. What made things worse was her picture perfect reflection. It made everything much harder to endure. The reason for that was the vision that stared back at her was the same as always: thick black curls falling down her shoulders, deep brown eyes, unblemished porcelain skin and a blank, unreadable expression that she had lapsed into, having been trained to for years before. It wasn't real. None of it was real.

An image was merely a reflection of light coming off a surface and shining back as a picture of what the mind perceived was there. It displayed nothing but physical appearance and Inara felt herself filling with hatred at the thought, as innocent as it seemed.

Pulling the mirror from the wall, Inara slammed it to the ground. It smashed into a million pieces and shards of glass flung into the air, marking her perfect skin. Beads of blood lined her forehead where a particularly large piece had struck and more of the red liquid flowed freely from a wound to her lower leg.

Inara didn't care.

She seethed inside as her face peered up at her from the shattered fragments on the floor. They lied to her and showed her someone else from long ago. She had changed a lot over the past year or so and somehow had expected to be able to see it. She couldn't.

Inara stared into her reflection, the past haunting her by the lack of difference it displayed. It was torture. Closing her eyes, she forced the images to the back of her mind. She breathed in deeply and exhaled.

She'd never really be able to change. It just wasn't in her. She couldn't be who Mal wanted her to be while remaining who she, herself, wanted to be. In her heart, she would always be a Companion. She would always be the same girl she had been years earlier. Nothing had changed since she found Serenity and nothing would change in the future. It couldn't.

With one last lingering glance at her reflection, Inara collected herself and mentally glued the shattered fragments of her façade back together.